A State-by-State Guide to Action

2020 Cannabis Consumer Demographics

Cannabis consumer demographics

As the cannabis market matures throughout the U.S., and legalization progresses, consumers are becoming hyper-aware of what products they want and how they want them. To curate the best experience for each person coming through your door, you need to have a clear idea of who you’ve been selling to and who you want to sell to more.

By understanding your cannabis consumer demographics, you can target your communications and marketing more efficiently and effectively. If you don’t know what your customer mix looks like, it's difficult to make educated decisions on how to properly reach them.

Consumer demographics can be classified by many different categories. While this resource hones in on age, you can also analyze and personalize your customer experience by other demographic data such as gender, race, income, education, location, or employment status.

Here is a snapshot of 2020 medical and recreational cannabis consumers by generational age groups based on a representative sample size from 1,000+ dispensary locations running on Flowhub.

2020 Cannabis Sales by Generation

Medical

  • Gen Z 17%
  • Millennials 42%
  • Gen X 23%
  • Boomers 17%
  • Silent Gen 1%

Recreational

  • Gen Z 17%
  • Millennials 48%
  • Gen X 21%
  • Boomers 13%
  • Silent Gen 1%

Why do cannabis consumer demographics matter?

The charts above show that the old assumption that cannabis consumption is coming only from millennials is simply not true. In fact, THC buyers are now coming from all ages and all walks of life. Understanding your customers is no longer optional. Because customers today expect a personalized experience, you need to know this information in order to remain competitive.

If you don’t know the demographic breakdown of your store, you may be missing out on some valuable marketing opportunities and in turn, losing business to competitors who are catering to those customers’ needs. For example, if you only promote your business on Instagram, but ignore the other social channels, you’re also ignoring a huge percentage of the population who could be a valuable customer.

In the coming sections, we’ll dive into each state’s demographic breakdown of cannabis consumers by generation and key insights about the data. Check out your state and see how it compares to others.

Then, learn how to turn consumer demographics into actions for your marijuana dispensary.

Jump to your state:

Colorado

Colorado is the pioneer of recreational cannabis. This market is often seen as the “gold standard” for legal marijuana sales.

Interestingly, the medical and recreational demographics of this state are almost identical, with millennials being the primary cannabis consumer. But Gen Z, Gen X, and boomers all have strong market share in both the med and rec markets, so don’t put all your focus on millennials.

See how to take action →

2020 CO Demographics

Medical

  • Gen Z 19%
  • Millennials 47%
  • Gen X 20%
  • Boomers 13%
  • Silent Gen 1%

Recreational

  • Gen Z 17%
  • Millennials 48%
  • Gen X 21%
  • Boomers 13%
  • Silent Gen 1%

California

California’s cannabis market is the largest in the country and its discerning customers know their wants and needs when it comes to marijuana.

Gen Z is a large demographic in the medical space in California. This may be due to the fact that 18-year-olds are able to obtain a med card instead of waiting to turn 21 to buy adult-use cannabis. Look for these teens to switch over to rec as they come of age.

Whether you are a rec or med dispensary (or dual licensee), you will have a different distribution of customers, so be prepared to tailor your marketing, communications, and store experiences to this broad customer base.

See how to take action →

2020 CA Demographics

Medical

  • Gen Z 27%
  • Millennials 37%
  • Gen X 18%
  • Boomers 17%
  • Silent Gen 1%

Recreational

  • Gen Z 19%
  • Millennials 49%
  • Gen X 18%
  • Boomers 13%
  • Silent Gen 1%

Oregon

Oregon is a state with low prices for cannabis, strict rules and unique regulations.

Millennials make up half of the recreational demographic in Oregon. Make sure to focus your attention on this group when considering marketing and communications for your store. If your dispensary is medical, you’ll need to distribute your focus across all generations, with an eye on Gen X and boomers.

See how to take action →

2020 OR Demographics

Medical

  • Gen Z 12%
  • Millennials 38%
  • Gen X 25%
  • Boomers 24%
  • Silent Gen 1%

Recreational

  • Gen Z 17%
  • Millennials 50%
  • Gen X 20%
  • Boomers 12%
  • Silent Gen 1%

Nevada

There are few stores in Nevada, meaning a higher probability of success for those that are open and operating.

Boomers in Nevada take up nearly 40% of the medical market while millennials and Gen Zers are more than twice as likely to shop recreationally. Form a plan to cater to your local boomers who are looking for essential medicine, while keeping your store modern to appeal to the younger generations and tourists.

See how to take action →

2020 NV Demographics

Medical

  • Gen Z 5%
  • Millennials 22%
  • Gen X 35%
  • Boomers 37%
  • Silent Gen 1%

Recreational

  • Gen Z 11%
  • Millennials 45%
  • Gen X 26%
  • Boomers 17%
  • Silent Gen 1%

Michigan

While local legislation in many parts of Michigan has been a blocker for recreational sales, the market is still strong.

Michigan’s Gen Xers are a noticeably high percentage of both the medical and recreational demographics so far. Take time to both attract and maintain this valuable group. But don’t forget about the other generations, as they all have a significant market share both in med and rec (with the exception of the Silent Generation).

See how to take action →

2020 MI Demographics

Medical

  • Gen Z 17%
  • Millennials 39%
  • Gen X 26%
  • Boomers 17%
  • Silent Gen 1%

Recreational

  • Gen Z 9%
  • Millennials 40%
  • Gen X 30%
  • Boomers 19%
  • Silent Gen 2%

Alaska

Alaska’s sparse populations and high costs of operation make it increasingly important to retain customers and maintain high revenues.

With a significant presence across most generations, ensure that you’re making the most of your store’s potential by tailoring the best possible experience to each customer that walks through the door. And remember that if you fail to cater to an age group, your competitors will.

See how to take action →

2020 AK Demographics

Recreational

  • Gen Z 14%
  • Millennials 47%
  • Gen X 23%
  • Boomers 15%
  • Silent Gen 1%

Maryland

Maryland’s market is currently limited to medical-use only, and there are limited active licenses in the state.

The demographic breakdown in Maryland is pretty consistent with other states. About half of medical customers are either Gen Z or millennials and the other half are Gen X and boomers. Take the time to spread out your marketing tactics across the four major demographics.

See how to take action →

2020 MD Demographics

Medical

  • Gen Z 8%
  • Millennials 40%
  • Gen X 28%
  • Boomers 23%
  • Silent Gen 1%

Montana

As a long time medical-only state, there is a strong patient market in Montana. The state has plenty of potential as cannabis continues to grow in acceptance.

The demographic breakdown of Montana’s cannabis patients are pretty evenly split, so be sure to avoid overlooking any age group and tailor your marketing to each of the primary generations. If you don’t create experiences that those groups will like, they’ll take their business to one of your competitors now that patients and providers are untethered.

See how to take action →

2020 MT Demographics

Medical

  • Gen Z 19%
  • Millennials 39%
  • Gen X 22%
  • Boomers 19%
  • Silent Gen 1%

Oklahoma

Oklahoma medical licenses are affordable to acquire and the laws around obtaining medical marijuana cards are more flexible than in other states. It’s no surprise that this market is booming and competition is increasing quickly.

Focus considerable time and attention on the younger generations in Oklahoma; they make up 58% of your customer population. But don’t forget about Gen X and boomers, who still contribute a sizable amount of sales.

See how to take action →

2020 OK Demographics

Medical

  • Gen Z 15%
  • Millennials 43%
  • Gen X 24%
  • Boomers 17%
  • Silent Gen 1%

Turn demographic insights into action

Knowing your demographic breakdown, or information about your customer base, is an important first step. Now you need to form a plan for how to reach or retain your current and prospective customers based on the characteristics of each age group.

The following section contains background information and tactics for marketing to each generation. Take a look and start thinking about changes that you can make in the immediate future to formulate the best customer experience for each demographic.

Note that these breakdowns are generalities more than they are guarantees, so not every point will apply to every person in that generation, but you will be able to gain a broad understanding of how to attract or retain each segment.

Diversity of cannabis consumers

Generation Z (Born between 1995 and 2015)

This is a demographic of true digital natives. Born with the internet and smartphones, they value one thing over all else — convenience.

While many Gen Z’ers aren’t old enough to purchase legal cannabis yet, they are entering the adult-use market at unprecedented rates as they turn 21 and even getting med cards at 18. Gen Z is the first demographic to grow up in a world that is acknowledging the value of cannabis and they want to take part in this movement. While it’s important to note that Generation Z aren’t going to take a major stake in cannabis purchases for at least another few years, they are creeping into the market with a strong affinity for cannabis.

How to attract and retain Gen Z cannabis consumers:

    Social media is key

    Gen Zers love their phones and make the majority of their decisions about brands based on social media. To appeal to Gen Z, post consistent, high-quality content and engaging with followers. Check out how Cookies has built a massive following on Instagram for some inspiration.

    Tailor product types

    According to Benzinga, Gen Zers prefer to vape their favorite cannabis product, but this doesn’t mean it’s their only way to consume. They’re also fans of concentrates. Gen Z primarily use cannabis recreationally, but don’t discount their value of the medicinal properties of cannabis.

    Email is still relevant

    While email is often considered dead or dying as a form of communication, it’s actually a valuable touchpoint. In fact, 85% of Gen Z prefer using email over other communication channels. Make sure to avoid spamming, but use email to check in and cultivate relationships.

    Modernize store layouts

    Gen Z values modern retail experiences, especially when it comes to cannabis. As the most tech-savvy generation, this group wants to see technology integrated directly into the shopping experience. This can include digital displays, payment processing, mobile shopping carts, mobile check in, and self-service kiosks.

    Partner with influencers

    If you really want to target Gen Zers, reach out to those around you with strong social platforms - especially those that are centered around cannabis. 44% of Gen Z have made a purchase based on a recommendation from a social influencer so this is a relatively easy way to get their attention, and their business.

    Offer targeted specials

    Younger people, on average, don’t spend as much money per transaction in dispensaries. This is probably because most Gen Zers have less disposable income compared to older generations. This means that they’ll appreciate discounts and will enjoy the benefits that come with loyalty programs.

    Millennials (Born between 1980 and 1994)

    Millennials have pioneered the recreational cannabis industry, working to prove that marijuana is not a dangerous drug, but instead helpful wellness products for reducing stress, minimizing anxiety, easing chronic pain, and having fun in the process.

    Not only are millennials the single largest consumer base, they’re also highly educated and know what they want when it comes to cannabis products. They trust endorsements from their peers and are not especially brand loyal, they will try new, exciting products as they see fit.

    How to attract and retain millennial cannabis consumers:

    Share social values

    Almost 50% of millennials are more likely to buy from a company if that purchase supports a cause. If you’re operating a legal dispensary, you have already joined the fight to make cannabis mainstream. Common Citizen uses its brand story to make their stores more than just a place to buy cannabis. Work to improve your community and millennials will take note, but be sure you’re also communicating your social activism efforts in an authentic way.

    Stand out with social

    Social media is not just a place to advertise or improve brand awareness. In fact, about 47% of millennials use social media to file complaints about a brand’s products or services. Make sure that you engage as people reach out and resolve any issues quickly. Some other valuable social strategies are live streaming, polls, and user-generated content. All of these tactics will grow your social following and appeal heavily to millennials.

    Curate helpful experiences

    Just like Gen Z, millennials are highly impacted by the cannabis retail shopping experience. Four in ten millennial customers say that budtender recommendations were very influential in their purchasing decision. Be sure to curate the best and most helpful experience to draw in this demographic. A beautiful store with integrated technology and diverse product selection is a great start, but knowledgable budtenders will likely seal the deal.

    Sell unique experiences

    According to Millennial Marketing, 69% of millennials crave adventure in their daily lives. To make your store stand out, consider going beyond the normal transactional experience. One popular technique is to categorize your products by feelings or desired outcomes instead of just Indica, Sativa or Hybrid. By tailoring your products to feelings, like happiness, sleep, alertness, etc., you’re giving a unique experience to each customer and making your products more appealing to millennials.

    Create authentic content

    Millennials are reported to use the internet and apps for 211 minutes per day from their phones. And during this time, they are resonating with authenticity in the content they read and share. 90% of millennials say that authenticity is key when deciding which brands to support. If you focus on making authentic, sharable content like helpful blog posts, social media, or even just an interesting website, you'll see this age group perk up.

    Improve store reviews

    97% of millennials read local business reviews online. This shows just how important it is to make sure each customer's experience is flawless. Check your reviews regularly and see if there is anything that you can be doing better. Respond to both negative and positive reviews, but avoid being confrontational. Voice your understanding, show that you are listening to feedback and take action on improving your service.

    Generation X (Born between 1965 and 1979)

    Gen X not only make up a large portion of the workforce in the U.S., they also make up a substantial portion of cannabis consumers. They have sizable disposable income and their consumption habits exemplify the “average cannabis user,” meaning they enjoy a wide range of products for an assortment of reasons.

    Gen X is often overlooked when marketing cannabis, but this is a mistake since they spend the most money of all generations per visit. These customers are interested in convenience, clarity, and trust when making purchases, so make sure you’re upfront and honest to build a lasting relationship.

    How to attract and retain Gen X cannabis consumers:

    Cultivate loyalty

    Gen X has the highest brand loyalty across all generations. If you can get them in the door and provide a great experience, expect them to return. Things like remembering their name or specific characteristics about their preferred products will provide that extra touch to solidify the relationship. It's the little things that will turn Gen X visitors into loyal customers.

    Reach them with email

    Sending out regular emails to Gen Xers will provide a valuable touchpoint. This group appreciates the little things and are also highly active on email, so you should see positive results. One great way to continually reach Gen X is to send out a monthly newsletter. This can include new or existing specials and relevant information regarding your store and your products.

    Create a Facebook account

    While Facebook is not as popular with younger generations, Gen X prefer it; nine in ten Gen X social users are on Facebook. Tailor your page to education. Don’t mention anything is for sale and don't show images of sales, instructions for growing cannabis, medical claims, or prices, or your page may be shut down. Keep it simple and informative to tap into a massive audience of Gen Xers.

    Update your website

    72% of Gen Xers use the internet to research businesses. This means that you’ll need to have a stellar online presence or you’ll lose customers from this demographic. The best websites share some basic commonalities; they are clear and concise and provide important information, such as store hours, live menus, and online ordering.

    Make them feel valued

    Many cannabis brands get caught up marketing to millennials and Gen Z, leaving Gen X behind as a result. In fact, 54% of Gen X consumers feel overlooked by brands and marketers. To make them feel valued, tailor some of your marketing and communications to the goals, lifestyles, and purchasing habits of people around the ages of 40 to 55.

    Be upfront

    Gen Xers are the entrepreneurs, CEOs, and powerhouses of our society. They don't like it when you beat around the bush, so be up front and get straight to the point. If you show them what your products and store can do for them, they will consider it a good investment and will likely spend more money compared to other demographics.

    Baby boomers (Born between 1944 and 1964)

    Another overlooked demographic in cannabis marketing, boomers are considered one of the most underappreciated marijuana customers. Boomers also have the highest disposable income of any generation.

    If done carefully, catering to the wants/needs of baby boomers can account for a sizable boost in revenue, especially for medical cannabis companies.

    How to attract and retain baby boomer cannabis consumers:

    Watch for misconceptions

    Contrary to popular belief, 68% of boomers use smartphones and they also make 20% more online purchases than millennials. These statistics are important in disrupting how we think about this generation. Boomers are online. To capture the attention of boomers, make sure your website is easy to navigate and deeply informative. Videos are a popular media type for boomers and they can portray your message more clearly than text or images; use video on social media, email, and your website.

    Provide in-depth education

    Boomers are more likely to experience aches, pains, and health conditions that cannabis is shown to help. According to BDS research, 90% of boomer cannabis consumers believe it relieves pain and 97% are in favor of cannabis if it can help a sick loved one. Make sure you are providing in-depth information both online and in store on the benefits of cannabis consumption. Take the time to educate boomers on different product types, like CBD, edibles, and tinctures, and how they can help specific ailments.

    Focus on customer service

    Baby boomers grew up in the era of brick and mortar stores and are heavily influenced by customer service. Pay careful attention to boomers when they walk in the door and ensure their questions are answered. You will need friendly, professional budtenders and a simple, yet effective store layout to impress this group. If you’re able to cultivate trust, both immediately and over time, it’s likely that boomers will return. Boomers are known to drive out of the way for a more trustworthy dispensary.

    Silent generation (Born between 1928 and 1943)

    The silent generation is the most conservative and traditional of all generations, and also the smallest in numbers. They have a strong respect for authority, but they still take on opportunities to try new things. They can be included in your marketing to boomers as they are also active on Facebook and email. Silent generation members are interested in medical use over recreational and they value information on products before making purchases.

    Since the silent generation is a very small percentage of cannabis sales right now, don’t spend too much time specifically targeting them, but do know that you have customers in this age group and that number is growing. Generally, the approaches you’d take to attract and retain boomers will also resonate with this group.

    Read this next!

    How to provide an excellent dispensary experience for senior citizens

    Over to you!

    It’s important, as a cannabis business, to understand who your customers are, how that relates to the broader addressable audience, and what you can do to attract and retain different customer groups.

    The generational breakdown for each state above are averages from a sample cohort of 800 dispensaries across the country who use Flowhub. They may not be exactly representative of your specific store, but there are many consumer insights we can derive from the data.

    To be sure you’re taking the right steps, take the time to find out your exact demographic breakdown.

    • If you’re a Flowhub customer, check out our View app and reports to gain valuable insights into who your customers are and what ages they fall under. Demographic data is part of our dispensary POS system so you never have to guess who your customers are.
    • For non-Flowhub customers, there are other ways to get a sense of your demographic breakdown. You could look at your social media followers and website visitors to obtain demographic data, but know those analytics won’t be representative of your customers. Ideally, you’ll look to your cannabis POS (assuming it has the capability to show you this information).

    Once you understand your customer base, start segmenting your marketing and communications efforts. You’re limited in your ability to do paid advertising, so organic search, social media, email, SMS, online menus, partnerships, and in-store experiences are going to be the most effective ways to build your cannabis marketing strategy.

    The best way to stand out in a competitive market, and build long-term success, is to attract new customers and retain the ones you have. Armed with demographic benchmarks and actionable knowledge about consumer behavior, you can think about satisfying that existing customer base, and going after the age groups you’re currently missing.

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